Energy from the Sun plays a major role in the chemistry, climate, and habitability of Earth. One aspect of this relationship is light-driven chemical reactions in the atmosphere, such as the photolysis of ozone at high altitude to form hydroxyl radicals. Recently, an alternative process for the formation of hydroxyl radicals was proposed, which involves direct photolysis of a fatty acid at an air-water interface.

A new paper in the journal Science, entitled “Atmospheric radical chemistry revisited,” reviews current knowledge of atmospheric radical chemistry and describes how radical reactions initiated by the absorption of sunlight can follow previously unknown mechanisms. The review is authored by Veronica Viada, Principal Investigator for the Habitable Worlds investigation entitled, “Harnessing Energy From Stellar Radiation to Generate Metabolic Precursors.”